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Tag: My Little Corner

Heading for My Little Corner and editorial by Shannon Peace

‘It’s crumbling around us as we speak’

Should there be public consultation when changes affecting health care are proposed? Should there be an opportunity to ask questions? Should we be concerned when budget cuts could drastically affect our community?

I asked these questions in a March 2020 article after Pincher Creek physicians voiced concerns about budget changes at a community town hall.

A key point, one I hadn’t considered before, was that rural family medicine practices are small businesses with fixed costs. And when cost outweighs income, changes must be made for a practice to remain viable.

Financial costs aren’t the only consideration. At the time, Dr. Jared Van Bussel referred specifically to potential changes to maternity care and the cost of losing it. His concerns have not changed.

He also noted that disruptions to maternity care and individual health services impact the viability of the community.

A month later, Associate Clinic physicians announced a planned withdrawal of hospital-based services to come in 90 days. The move was prompted by a continuing lack of trust between doctors and Alberta Health, and ongoing uncertainty for the future. The uncertainty was not just for the physicians themselves but for their staff, patients and community.

 

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The point hit home, and Pincher Creek rallied around its doctors. Letters were sent to government officials and a drive-by rally was held in June.

At the same time, Covid-19 was moving in, stretching local, provincial, national and global medical care to its limit.

Negotiating a master plan between the Alberta Medical Association and the provincial government piled even more pressure on Alberta’s medical professionals.

In October, local physicians chose to continue working in the emergency room and hospital rather than withdrawing those services. The community gave a collective sigh of relief, but problems remained unsolved.

By April 2021, a tentative master plan from Alberta Health had been brought forward and voted down by AMA members. Tyler Shandro, then minister of health, had also been to Pincher Creek to meet with Associate Clinic doctors, who were cautiously optimistic that agreement could be found.

It was September 2022 before a new funding contract was agreed to between AMA and the province.

The number of doctors at the clinic began to decline. Some retired while others chose to pursue careers elsewhere.

Finding replacements continues to be a challenge. Meanwhile, the cost of operating the clinic remains.

As we have all seen the cost of living rise dramatically, the cost of running any kind of business has increased as well.

To put this in perspective, as with any business, the financial burden on each partner increases substantially when the number of partners declines.

Speaking from personal experience, the stress and workload also increase significantly when staffing changes occur.

 

 

Let’s take stock of what we have in Pincher Creek.

We have a clinic and hospital providing continuity of care under one roof, personal relationships with physicians, an anesthetist and a surgeon, and even a CT scanner. Most importantly, we have a team of family doctors providing comprehensive care.

We also have our medical community working in difficult circumstances and likely losing hope for positive change. The emergency department was closed overnight twice in July due to a shortage of physician coverage.

About 800,000 Albertans do not have a family doctor, a situation especially dire in rural areas.

Our community has amazing medical resources, which are easy to take for granted, but a lack of stability under the very foundation of our health care system leaves it in danger of caving in.

“It’s crumbling around us as we speak.”

Dr. Paul Parks, president of the Alberta Medical Association, spoke those words Tuesday morning while sharing the results of a family and rural generalist physician survey conducted last week.

Asked to put the current state of affairs into medical terms, he likened it to a mass casualty that is bleeding out. The bleeding needs to be stopped and the patient stabilized.

Only then, once the chaos has passed, can treatment proceed.

 

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About 30 per cent of Alberta doctors participated in the AMA survey. Most have been practising for 11 or more years and 43 per cent are dealing with 1,000 or more patients.

Of respondents, 21 per cent feel their finances can sustain their practices for up to a year, while 20 per cent say they are unlikely to be viable beyond six months and eight per cent say only three months.

While $100 million of federal assistance earmarked for stabilization was announced in December, Parks says “not one cent has flowed to family physicians yet.”

He also noted that financial assistance is available immediately when there are wildfires and other emergencies. The health-care crisis, which physicians and their association have been red-flagging for over a decade, has yet to trigger the same response.

The old model needs to evolve because physicians are leaving Alberta for greener pastures where governments are responding to the crisis. Actions must match promises so health-care workers and all of us can look forward with hope.

If we sit quietly and say nothing, the system will continue to crumble, with disastrous consequences.

At a town hall last May, Dr. Gavin Parker said, “If you want to find someone who can fix this, find a mirror.”

On its website, Alberta Health says, “The future of health care is in your hands.”

Alberta Health is holding public engagement sessions in Crowsnest Pass at 10 a.m. today and in Pincher Creek at 5 p.m. Registration is required.

TODAY!

This long backstory leads to a strong call to action.

If you are concerned about a crumbling health-care system, please register for a session.

Have your say — your life may depend on it.

 

 

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Winter sunrise or sunset? What do you see?

My Little Corner: Find your peace

I have a T-shirt with the phrase “find your peace” written in script on the shoulder. It was a must-have purchase because the sentiment spoke to me and used my last name.

Many people chase peace and some find it.

I am one of them.

Putting these words to paper is a reminder to me, and perhaps to others, that peace exists but also pulls disappearing acts at times. It can often be found again.

Peace on an individual level might focus on finding tranquility, while on a global level, it refers to a time without war.

World peace seems to always be just out of reach. The sun rises and sets as conflicts rage, While we observe and shake our heads about man’s inhumanity to man, hope for peace persists.

For many engaged in war, sunset represents surviving another day and sunrise means facing it all over again. How tragic it must be to wake up only to say good morning day of battle.

Personal peace is individual. What I find fulfilling might be something you abhor and vice versa.

 

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What people do with peace varies among us as well — some enjoy disturbing it while others seek to capture it.

If you’re lucky, you’ll connect with someone who shares your definition of peace. For five years I did just that with the man who changed my name to Peace. We both found humour in that (and he was a fan of my T-shirt).

After he passed away before Christmas 2023, I was stuck in the sunset. I often dreaded sunrise and preferred to lurk just a little longer in the dark. Days were hard.

We believed we were prepared for Jim’s death after a terminal cancer diagnosis, but I had no idea how unprepared I was. The experience has given me a new perspective on loss and grief, and the impact they have.

Regular readers noticed the lack of editorials. My Little Corner appeared only sporadically because my brain seemed to have lost the capacity to create anything meaningful. I made errors and dropped a number of balls and, as one used to high achievement, I felt quite useless at times.

I tiptoed from the sunset into the dark on occasion and even caught glimpses of the light of dawn when possibilities seemed attainable. It took a year to fully leave the comfort of the sunset, travel a bumpy road in the dark and overcome some nightmares. 

 

 

Today, squinting at the brightness, I can again see the beauty in a sunrise. I also have new appreciation for sunsets and the night.

Over the last year, my search for peace never ended; it was the engine that kept me running.

Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me the space to take that journey. I look forward to greeting the day and am excited about returning to writing.

I have peace in the beautiful space I call home and with the family and friends who nourish my soul.

A year ago I would have seen this as a sunset because I looked forward to the end of the day. Now, I can see a beautiful sunrise fuelled by possibilities.

What do you see?

I hope you, too, find your peace.

 

 

Winter sunrise or sunset? What do you see?

 

 

Two women, Brenda Shenton in light orange sweater and Shannon Peace in dark rust shirt, with award certificates earned by Shootin' the Breeze.

Celebrate National Newspaper Week with us

While times are tough in most industries right now, our team tries to keep our chins up as we face new, and unique, challenges in the newspaper business.

Celebrating what Shootin’ the Breeze does well is something I enjoy. It’s not meant in a vain way but as a matter of shining a bright spotlight on the people who work very hard to ensure there is a newspaper in your hands every Wednesday morning.

A few weeks back, Brenda Shenton and I spent a weekend in Edmonton at the annual general meeting and convention of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. We’d talked about going together for a number of years, and now that she’s retired she finally had time to join me!

If you ask, Brenda will tell you that she came away with much deeper insight into what happens beyond our local media outlet. She knows that, despite the potholes and bumps on the newspaper highway, I come back from this annual event rejuvenated and motivated.

The turnout was grim and, as convention chairwoman, it’s something I’ve been trying to address over the past two years. Many say they simply can’t afford the cost of the trip or the cost of being away from their office for even two days.

On the bright side, those in attendance, both in person and virtually, are committed to keeping Alberta’s newspapers strong.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Hardships were acknowledged and solutions were sought. There’s no better place to do this than among a group of your peers.

Once ideas get flowing, things quickly get productive. I’m sure each publisher in attendance went home with something new to implement.

Sometimes conversation leads to more questions than answers. This is just as important.

Brenda made a point of speaking with all of the younger members in attendance. She heard positive hopes for the future and concerns that their older co-workers or employers often aren’t open to trying new ideas.

An age-old story that is not limited to the press.

 

AWNA 2023 board of directors; Jeff Burgar, Amanda Zimmer, Lisa Sygutek, Shannon Peace and Evan Jamison.
2023 board of directors of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association are Jeff Burgar of the HIgh Prairie South Peace News, left, Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press, Lisa Sygutek of the Pass Herald, Shannon Peace of Shootin’ the Breeze and Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette. Missing are Craig Barnard of Post Media and Daria Zmiyiwsky of Black Press. | Photo by Pearl Lorentzen of the Slave Lake Lakeside Leader

 

 

The AGM always ends with the swearing in of the AWNA board of directors. A number of us are in our fourth year serving together, giving the board stability and strength.

This year, Lisa Sygutek of the Pass Herald has moved to the role of board president and I will work alongside her as vice-president.

Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press is back on the board, giving southwestern Alberta the benefit of three female independent newspaper owners having a voice.

I mention female because back when my parents and Lisa’s parents were involved, these positions were generally held by men.

Joining us are Daria Zmiyiwsky of Black Press, Craig Barnard of Postmedia, Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette and Jeff Burgar of the High Prairie South Peace News.

Lisa has been heavily involved in the government affairs of the association, something she excels in. Lisa is feisty and blunt, and fights for what she believes in.

We all believe in the value of community newspapers and look forward to a strong year supporting Alberta’s community news sources.

 

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Along with a new title, I returned home with a number of awards for our publication.

The BNC Awards of Excellence and Photographic Awards are open to all Alberta newspapers, from the smallest to the largest.

Best Ad Campaign Award – third place: Jaiden Panchyshyn for Blackburn Jewellers 2022 Shop Local for Christmas campaign.

Best Agricultural Section – third place: Shootin’ the Breeze.

Sue Gawlak Best Local Editorial – honourable mention to Shannon Peace for My Little Corner.

Sports Writing Award – honourable mention to Mia Parker for Local Women Excel in 1,000-Mile Survival Race on the Yukon River.

Wildlife Photo – honourable mention to Jenaya Launstein.

The BNC General Excellence Awards are classed according to circulation. Shootin’ the Breeze is in a group of 13 newspapers and the awards reflect the work of our entire team.

Best Editorial Page – second place

Best Overall Score – third place

Best Front Page – third place

I tip my hat to my co-workers at the Breeze and to my fellow board members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. Work well done is worthy of celebration as we move forward.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

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Multi-coloured glass heart sits on a hockey puck in the snow

Moving forward with hope

April 6, 2018.

The first message came via text from my daughter, Jaiden. “The Humboldt Broncos bus was on the way to Nipawin to play the Hawks and was in an accident with a semi at the Armley corner.”

The junior A hockey team was headed to a playoff game in my hometown in Saskatchewan.

The Armley corner is one that drivers in that neck of the woods know well. It is one that had claimed lives before that fateful day and it is, unfortunately, one a single driver in a semi truck did not know well.

A nation was glued to the news as the aftermath of the accident settled in. You didn’t need to be a hockey fan, or to have any connection to the 16 who died or the 13 who were injured, to feel the magnitude of the number of lives that changed in an instant on that fateful day.

It is a poignant experience to stop at the roadside memorial on Highway 35, a harsh realization of what can happen when two vehicles’ paths cross at full speed.

 

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Memories of that night are burned forever into the minds of all who survived the crash, the first responders who witnessed the carnage, and the medical personnel who did all they could for each person brought from the bus. 

It impacted their families, their communities and their futures in a way that most of us will never fully grasp.

We did our best, in our own ways, to support those affected. As a mom, it broke my heart. These kids could have been my own.

Five years have now passed and you may wonder why I would choose to give our front page to an event that seems to many to be long ago and far away.

Negativity has been swirling around for the past few years, and a reminder of great generosity that came in the face of tragedy is good for us all.

While there was huge financial and community support offered to the players and their families, that’s not what I’m referring to.

 

 

When Logan Boulet of Lethbridge signed an organ donor card after turning 21, no one could have imagined that only a few weeks later, in death, he would be giving life and hope to at least six other people.

What great respect his parents deserve for ensuring Logan could give this final gift.

The Logan Boulet Effect came to life when people heard of the donation of his organs. It started a chain reaction that led to a spike in people signing donor cards in the weeks and months after the accident.

Other young men who were on the bus that day have done inspiring things as well. Focusing on Logan Boulet is natural when he grew up just down the road. 

That is something people in our community can relate to, especially in a time when mental wellness is a challenge for many.

You may recall that green shirts became symbolic of support for the Broncos almost immediately. Like me, you may have purchased one from the Pincher Creek Co-op and may reflect on days when you pull it over your head.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Green Shirt Day was created the following year and I definitely noticed people donning the colour and the symbols, whether on their shirts or hats.

It is a colour of hope and, not coincidentally, the colour associated with organ and tissue donation.

I think we can all use a little hope and the message is timely. 

The first green grass of spring is showing, bringing with it a feeling of renewal, and is tangible as we see new life beginning all around us and feel the warmth of the April sunshine. 

This is the kind of hope that moves us forward.

Five years ago, Brenda Shenton shared a perfect image to go alongside my words in this column. This image is one she created in 2021 on the anniversary of the bus crash. Even in tragedy there can be beauty, and legacies can be created on the most difficult of days.

 

 

Millions of words have been written about the Broncos since the crash. Mine are but a drop in the bucket, but today, as they were then, they are from the heart.

On this highway that is life, we don’t know what lies ahead. Tragedies may leave us feeling uncertain about getting back aboard the bus or about letting our children do so.

Each step we take toward positive action takes us closer to healing ourselves. Life is a challenging journey and seeing both loss and beauty in an image like Brenda’s above, takes us to a better place.

It is hope that helps us move forward. Take a look — can you see the green around you?

Man wearing dress shirt and tie with computer on his lap sits next to three AI robots wearing ties

Jasper AI versus local reporter

Artificial intelligence has been around for decades but it seems to be a topic everyone is talking about right now. I’ve been chatting with another newspaper publisher about opportunities and concerns when it comes to AI taking steps into the industry.

The use of AI by journalists, bloggers, novelists, poets, songwriters and kids who don’t care to do homework is not new — it’s been lurking around for about 60 years — but it is trending.

Technology already looks after many mundane tasks — Google Maps is one example and Siri another. Saying “Hey Siri, dial Mom” simplifies the process of making a call and it’s nice not to have to pull over to read a map in rush-hour traffic. 

If you take a look around, you’ll see just how surrounded we are by technology that makes things easier for us. Machines make decisions based on data, which, in some ways, could make them better decision makers. If nothing else, they can certainly be faster. 

 

 

The ability of AI to tackle highly complex tasks and computations is one of its strengths. It can learn and make predictions, and optimize based on outcomes. 

In his article 15 Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence You Should Know, Mike Kaput lists automation of repetitive tasks, reduction of human error, completing tasks too dangerous for humans, better decision-making and problem-solving, cost savings, increased production and the ability to work 24 hours a day as pros to using AI.

“To experience the pros of AI, you need to have a clear, realistic understanding of its cons,” he says. These include the amount and quality of data AI has access to, the potential to make bad or harmful decisions, rationale behind decisions isn’t always provided, potential bias based on data provided, elimination of human jobs, unevenness of advancement in different fields means it doesn’t always deliver on promises, and it can be expensive.

I recently purchased a vacuum that incorporates AI with the hope it will spend more time sweeping up dog hair than me. I’m not averse to using technology in this manner although some would caution that its camera could be a spy.

 

 

Some also say that AI will continue to replace journalists. This is true to some degree, but I can’t imagine turning these pages over to a robot to fill.

I tested what AI could do in the newsroom and chose Jasper AI for the job. Touted on its website as “the #1 AI Copywriter,” it scours the web to find information to create a story for you. 

My experiment: Jasper versus Laurie (our civic affairs journalist) in creating an article.

The headline and first paragraph of Laurie’s page 2 story were provided to Jasper to base its own on, with the following result in about 10 seconds:

 

 

The Town of Pincher Creek is one step closer to having a new curling rink, after council narrowly approved the motion at the last meeting. The proposed rink would be built at the Community Recreation Centre on 942 Hyde Street and will be subject to a borrowing bylaw that must still pass before it can move forward. 

This new facility would provide recreational opportunities for the community and create a much-needed gathering space. It is estimated to cost around $2 million, with half of that money coming from grants, and the other half from local taxes. 

If everything goes according to plan, the Town of Pincher Creek could have an updated curling rink before the end of 2021. The project would create a number of jobs in the area and could help to stimulate the local economy. 

Mayor John Smith says, “This is an exciting opportunity for our community. We know that many people enjoy curling and this will provide them with a place to do it. This project has been a long time coming and we are looking forward to making it a reality.” 

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

The Town of Pincher Creek is now in the process of developing a borrowing bylaw that would fund the construction. Once this is approved, work on the rink can begin. The Town Council is hopeful that this new addition to their community will help create an enjoyable environment for all.

This is a hands-down win for Laurie as the article is full of inaccurate information.

Jasper could possibly have a role in headline creation, SEO optimization, proofreading (to a degree) and idea generation, but is not reliable for creating community news stories.

As AI becomes more prominent, consider the trustworthiness of the source. I’ll take a human who lives in and cares about the community any day.

Ask Mayor Smith.

 

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